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On causality, correlation, experience, and interpretation of experience

Posted Oct 21 2010 4:54am
Peter's comment is a good example of fuzzy thinking on causality, correlation, experience, and interpretation of experience, and a way of thinking that I often find with many but not all clinicians.
"David Seidler says that his stuttering was triggered by their moving to the US from Britain! Oh god. I hope he doesn't repeat that line too often. If you know him, tell him that millions moved to the US and did not start stuttering."

MANY PWS have stated that their stuttering was triggered by a stressful event. This should not be a point of debate, it's common knowledge. There is a difference between "triggered" and "caused". Why do you take issue with this?
Here is the resolution
1) Yes, "many pws have stated that their stuttering was triggered by a stressful event", but they are deluded.

a. humans tend to reduce events into a single event. Look at 9/11, there is no single event at time T, but a series of events on the time scale of minutes, days, weeks, and years, on the spatial scale of
centimetres, meters, kilometres, and even continents away by, and on different regions of the brain, humans, groups, and even nations.

b. humans are re-writing memories when recalling and it becomes even more idealised.

c. humans tend to view their interpretation of what happened to them as the truth. But there are other interpretations of the events that had been happening to them.Now if a girl refuses me, my interpretation is that she is blind, and her interpretation is that he is an idiot. Same experience, but different interpretation.

2) We need to focus on what they say has happened to them and not on their interpretation.

3) So if we asked them about their experience and not their interpretation, they will tell us "My stuttering occurred at the same time as the stressful event X". If we dig deeper, they will say "Y told me that I started stuttering roughly around the period of the events of X happening. Y thought that the event X must have been stressful. I have similar memories but they are vague because I was so young."

4) So the real observation is a correlation between stuttering and a period of the events of X.

5) There are four possible interpretations
a. S and X are randomly correlated, which is by far the most likely. Because whenever we start stuttering, there is almost always a period of event X close by, e.g. birth of younger sibling, divorce, death, moving, being scared, bitten by animal, fall, virus infection and so on. So you can always find an event X to correlate to stuttering.

b. S causes X. This is unlikely, but maybe stuttering causes divorce because mother blamed father and this was the last straw. And later it becomes the bloody father caused you to stutter.

c. X causes S. This option is possible but not the only option. Here we need to distinguish between trigger and real cause. A trigger is something that initiates the event but is not truly responsible, e.g. a flooding made the dam break but the dam had cracks and it was only a matter of time until ANY major event would break the dam. There might be cases in children who start stuttering just after a stressful event but would have started stuttering anyway. And a real cause, for example massive stress leading to real brain damage, a virus infection, a fall. But then we need to explain why it happened.

d. C causes X and S. Another event causes S and X. Like a virus causes stuttering and a long stay at hospital. But it was not the hospital stay and the crying that causes stuttering.

Conclusion: Because Peter does not understand the subtleties and fallacies, he assumes something to be true, and for him "it's not a matter of debate", and bases his theory on it, but he is dead wrong.
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